Tag Archives: No Red Pen

Readers – What Would You Add?

In 2011, No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique was published just in time for that year’s San Francisco Writers Conference. Now I’m looking at completing a revised 3rd edition. I’m interested in what readers of No Red Pen think was missing in the original book or what could use a little more depth of discussion. Now’s your chance to let me know by using the feedback form below. NO RED PEN

Additionally, I have a survey that asks about individual experiences with writing groups and critique. Please take a few minutes and give your thoughts and opinions by participating in the Creative Writing Critique Experiences.

Thanks for your feedback and for participating in the survey.

While you’re at it, have you signed up for the newsletter yet?

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Self-Publishing Means Always Learning

When I published No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique, thought I’d prepared myself pretty well. I’d gone to workshops, attended conferences, read a lot of blog posts and talked with indie publishing insiders at those conferences – and I still made a 600 print run mistake that cost me a couple thousand dollars and left me with unsalable inventory. In the second printing, the costly error was fixed and I was a bit more humble about what my capabilities were. My education about independent publishing continues and I will continue to share some of what I find here on this site.

Today, check out Kristen Lamb’s blog post Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors. Especially, if you are ready to click that upload button for your first self-published book.

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No Red Pen Helps Fund Emerging Writer Prize

E-BookSince No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique released in 2012, the Ebook has been a free download. I’m still firmly committed to ensuring this book is easily accessible especially to students and low-income emerging writers. I’m also committed to keeping the Victoria A. Hudson Emerging Writer Prize going for many years to come. No Red Pen will increase to $1.99 at all Smashwords outlets and will continue as a Kindle $2.99 on Amazon. (This is due to how Amazon prices.) About half the net proceeds will benefit the emerging writer prize fund, in order to keep the fund going.

Additionally, there is a gofundme campaign to raise funds for the annual emerging writer prize. The campaign will continue to run until I’ve raised enough funds to ensure the annual scholarship is awarded for many years to come.

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Home from AWP 2013

For lack of an original term – I remain a bit shell shocked from my visit to AWP in Boston this past week. This was my first return to AWP since 2007 when I went while still in a MFA program.

My, how AWP has grown. More than 10,000 people, three massive convention halls for the book fair and hundreds of panels. I brought 36 pounds of No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique with me, and returned with 37 pounds of books picked up at the conference. Almost 100 writing programs received a free print copy of No Red Pen – hopefully they will find it useful for their students. “Did I mention the Ebook is free?” was my refrain when speaking with the “Influencers” about the book.

Highlights of my time in Boston – lunch with Andi Cumbo (God’s Whisper Manifesto: The Makings of a Dream) and friends P and Meghan K. Barnes (For the Love of God), visiting with Eloise Healy and a serendipitous encounter walking the book fair, moments with Katherine V. Forrest – Trailblazer and one of my personal literary heros, meeting Annie Rachele Lanzillotto when I walked by the SUNY publishing booth whose book, L is for Lion I just turned in a review for before flying off to AWP, the takeover of the Westin lobby for Kore Press‘s author readings, an intimate dinner discussing writing and life with two other authors, an invitation to send in an essay to Sinister Wisdom, and another author suggesting I write her agent using her name as reference, catching up with Charles Flowers and Bloom… and I did get to a few panels too.

If thinking about studying for the MFA – attend AWP first and check out the programs, hundreds of MFA and writing programs had representatives present. Looking for markets for your work – thousands of journals, many with free editions to hand out, had editors and volunteers at the book fair. Of course panels across a spectrum of subjects, numerous off site readings and if you are young enough to last that long, a dance party every night till midnight.


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Valentines I Heart Books Blog Hop – Fear is Your Friend

blog hop tag 300Welcome to the Valentines I Heart Books Blog Hop!

Last year about this time is when No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique published. Inspired by my experiences in formal and informal writing workshops and writers’ groups, No Red Pen was a labor of love for other writers, especially those starting out. The book is a free download currently from most online Ebook retailers with print versions available online. No Red Pen is a toolbox for becoming a provider of effective, useful critique in a respectful manner of both the work and the writer. For this blog tour, I’ve posted below a chapter from the book. Enjoy.

Chapter 4 from No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique – FEAR

Fear is a huge reason why people don’t join a writer’s group or seek out criticism, yet we know that feedback is essential to the writing process. Fear keeps writers from ever moving a manuscript from the drawer to the mailbox. Fear gets in the way. A writer venturing into the world of critique groups or returning after a poor group experience has a valid emotion when experiencing fear. Let’s not belittle the power of fear.

Fear, however, can also be a friend. Fear is a little voice that taps you on the shoulder and says, “Psst, pay attention.” Fear in a critique group is fear of failure; fear no one will like the writer, the work will be rejected, the people will be mean, the feedback will hurt, the process will be too difficult…There are many, many reasons to fear the unknown in venturing into a group of people, usually strangers (at least in the beginning) to whom the writer will expose her product of imagination or experience and hard work. One of the biggest fears an emerging or new writer has is that no one will like the work that has been labored over and poured out with heartfelt dedication.

“This is my heart and soul,” the writer says, “Do you like it?” Meaning of course, do you like me?

For a writer that wants to improve, the first step is letting go of that fear. Recognize that the writing is not the writer’s identity. The writing is not the writer’s self. The writing is just words on a page that create an experience for the reader to share and immerse oneself within. The writing ( even when you are telling a story where you are the main character) is not about you, the writer.

Letting go, in any aspect of life, is just plain difficult. It is not like we have a little button to click in the brain, the Letting Go Button. Letting go is a huge psychological process. Like any skill developed over time, with practice, the skill of letting go becomes if not easier, then more streamlined, faster, unconscious in its effort.

Successful letting go requires acknowledgement that there is something to let go of. In terms of joining a critique group, the writer must make the movement from not being in a group to joining and participating in a group. When fear is the obstacle in the way of the movement, and that fear is not acknowledged, all manner of other reasons will manifest: – no time, don’t know how, don’t know where to find one, don’t know what to do in one, the work isn’t ready… If you really want to join a group, none of these issues is a true obstacle. Let’s face it, “The work isn’t ready.” That is the whole point of the group, to help get the work ready! So, let’s go back to fear and letting it go.

Acknowledge that fear is the problem in the way. If you can focus specifically on what you are afraid of, that may be helpful though it’s not all that necessary at this stage. Notice how attached you are to that nice, comfortable fear? It’s what you know, it’s what you’ve been with for a while. Really, isn’t that fear a little like a buddy you’ve had with you a long time, sort of your teddy bear for not doing things? Think about letting that fear go be on its own now without you. Oh, there, did you feel that – that little twinge of guilt? That reflex of loyalty to what you’ve always known?

Fear is comfortable. Fear can be cozy. Fear can be a good friend or a frenemy. You get to choose. Once you are aware of your fear, you get to choose what to do with the fear. Let it lead the way, or let it move to the background and while present, fear is not in control. Sometimes we take our teddy bears with us long after we have outgrown them just because it makes venturing out into the unknown easier. Eventually, when we are ready, we put the teddy bear away, on its shelf. You can do the same thing with that fear that gets in the way of joining a critique group.

“I’m afraid to join a writers group.” Good acknowledgement.

“I can be afraid and still join a writers group.” Now you have moved forward and started to let go.

What does fear the friend whisper to you as you move forward?

“Pssst. Be safe. Take care of you.”

What is the worst that could happen?

Complete strangers who have no obligation to say nice things, won’t.

Mere acquaintances, who don’t know or care about little me, will slice and dice my heartfelt story.

These strangers, the competition, the perceived experts will tear me apart.

Oh wait, not me, the work.

So what enables a writer to put her work out there for critique?

Simply, have good boundaries. Like just about every other situation in life, good boundaries in a writing group keep us safe, promote civility and provide guidance for interaction. This is the work and this is the person who wrote the work. The feedback is about the work, not about the person. Not liking the work is not equal to not liking the person.

Boundaries make it safe for fear to not lead the way. A good sense of boundaries in terms of your writing means an understanding of where you, the individual is, and where the writing begins. The individual has many facets and aspects of identity. The writing is a product of the individual’s work, imagination and skill but is not the whole of the writer. Writers have a relationship with their writing and like other personal relationships, the lines can become blurred. Recognize that you, the writer, are not the product, the writing. Separate yourself from what is produced and it will be easier to hear criticism. You will not take the critique personally because you understand the critique is not about you.

Demonstrating a healthy relationship with your writing encourages healthy interaction with those who would offer critique. Have a sense of self that is greater than the writing. Now when you invite critique, you are not inviting criticism of self, merely feedback on the work. Your critique readers will appreciate that as it invites honest feedback that isn’t limited by concern for the writer’s feelings.

Freedom to give honest feedback is not license for abuse, disrespect or insult.

/End of Chapter 4/

Fear is your friend, in writing, and in life since it is telling you to pay attention. Just remember, you’re in charge, so you decide what to listen to when Fear peeks up.

Be sure to check out other participants in the Valentines I Heart Books Blog Tour.


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Principle vs Profit – KDP Select

Amazon’s KDP Select program enables an author to make their Ebook free for select days in a 90 day period. This garners immense free publicity for the author. I often read about books that have thousands of downloads on the free days. While my book is on Amazon, both in print and Ebook, it’s never there free. No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique IS free as an Ebook everywhere else. Why not on Amazon?  Because if I join KDP Select – the book must be pulled from every other retailer.

The book is intended for students and struggling writers, I want No Red Pen to be easy to access. I don’t want cost, even a couple bucks or 99 cents as a barrier. I’m cautious about a “company” store where products are only sold there and nowhere else. I think it is dangerous for writers to allow their access to the public to be controlled by one entity. I’m standing on principle.

And it’s costing me unknown amount of readers.

In 2012, there were 167 downloads over the 11 months the book was available. There were several instances via Barnes&Noble the book saw dozens of downloads in a day. Instructor use? A free book promotion B&N did? Don’t know. Moving to KDP Select would remove the access in the dozen other markets. How ironic, I may have to reduce markets to one if I want downloads and readership to multiply.  Principle may need tossing to the wayside if I want No Red Pen to reach a wider audience.

Not before June, 2013. After that, I may experiment with KDP Select and up the price of the Ebook to $2.99 with as many free days as the program allows.

Principle does not always pan out.

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No Red Pen Global E-book Finalist!

No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique has been selected as a finalist in Dan Poynter’s Global E-book Awards. The cover, designed by Victoria Hudson with art by Joleene Naylor has been named a finalist in the Best of e-book cover category. Image

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Free No Red Pen

The giants at Amazon want me to make them the exclusive distributors of my work if I want to conduct marketing specials by making the work free. That would limit availability to just Amazon.com. I’m just not all that interested in driving sales to a sole provider at the expense of other providers or at the expense of widening availability for access to my work. So, instead of signing up for KDP Select which would have enabled me to make my book, No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique free for a few days of the month and open the book up for lending within the Amazon universe with a bit of profit out of that; I made my book free everywhere else. So, for the next, I dunno, month or so, No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups, & Critique is free at smashwords, and once smashwords does its monthly update, free in all the other venues serviced by smashwords for distribution. So, you’ll still have to pay to download the ebook version onto your Kindle, but for any other device, it will be free.

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No Red Pen Nominated for Global eBook Award

No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique has been accepted into nomination for a Global E-book Award. The Global Ebook Awards honor and bring attention to the future of book publishing: Ebooks. Now in its second year, the Awards are in 72 specific categories. They are open to all publishers large and small so that a winner is the best in its category not just the best of small or regionally-published ebooks. Most ebooks are also available as printed books as well. The awards ceremony will be in gorgeous Santa Barbara on August 18, 2012.

Everyone has a story. No one else can tell your story. The process of creating, refining and ultimately releasing it into the wild that is publication in the world needs to be a respectful one. No Red Pen – Writers, Writing Groups & Critique is not an overview of writing groups – it is a manifesto for a different paradigm for workshopping and critiquing.

No Red Pen – Writers, Writing Groups & Critique is intended for those writers looking for information on what to consider when forming or joining a writers’ group and for writers seeking tools for critiquing work in progress. This is not a how-to book for writers’ groups. There is no discussion of specific craft techniques. There are other books in the market that discuss finer points of writers group administration and many that deal with craft. This book is intended to help the reader make informed choices in the marketplace of writing group workshops and provide useful skills for critique consumers. The act of entrusting one’s written work and exposing that product of imagination, heart, and soul to the criticism of others is a risky and brave action by the writer and a privilege for the reader. No Red Pen – Writers, Writing Groups & Critique provides a toolbox for conducting a writers’ workshop and recommendations for critique that fundamentally respects the writer and the work.

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Read an E-Book Week at Smashwords!

A little late,  but through tomorrow, you can find great free and reduced e-books at smashwords in celebration of Read an E-Book Week. This includes a free copy of my recently released No Red Pen, if you use coupon code REW75. What are you waiting for? Check it out here!

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